Personal Life vs. Student Life—Where Is the Line?

by SIVARAGHA BUDDANA ‘22 and MANINDER DHESI ‘22

On April 28, 2021, student Brandi Levy sued the Mahanoy Area School District for supposedly violating her First Amendment rights. Formerly identified as B.L. due to minority status, Levy was suspended from her school for violating team and school rules upon posting a social media response involving profanity for her not receiving placement on the Varsity Cheerleading Team. 

Angered by the school’s decision, she sued the school, saying that the school violated her First Amendment rights. In the end, the state court declared in favor of Levi, stating that the Mahanoy Area School District did, in fact, violate her First Amendment rights. In reflecting on this scenario and comparing it with the previous and modern policies of Edison High School, administrators and students shared their perspectives regarding the context and ruling of this case.

Student-athletes shared their opinions in regards to Levi’s actions and the ultimate ruling of the case. 

“I feel like she shouldn’t have been so upset about not getting her spot on the varsity cheerleading team,” said Alyson Zhang ‘22, a volleyball player at EHS. “High school sports are competitive, and she should’ve taken into account that she might not make the team, as with all sports. Although I feel the school suspending her for her expressing her anger on social media is unjustified (but it also depends on what she said).”

“You can have adult conversations and discussions. You can have points of view that differ from mine.”

Dr. Bernard Bragen, Superintendent of Schools

In addition, parents also expressed their concerns regarding this court case. 

“Even though [Levi] talked bad about the school’s cheerleading team on social media, the school shouldn’t be able to punish her for something she did outside of school since it wasn’t affecting anyone else in the school,” said one EHS parent. “But if my child did something like that, I would probably discipline them on my own for being disrespectful.” 

Dr. Bernard Bragen ‘83, Superintendent of the Edison Public School District, also spoke in regards to the case. A former high school football player, Bragen as an administrator now advocates for students’ interests and the rights they have for freedom of speech and press. 

“They’ll put [a post] on Snapchat. They may say negative things on Instagram, maybe Facebook. And then it gets more recognition,” Dr. Bragen said. “And then if it’s something…that has a lot of opportunity for people to react to it, then it gets an even wider audience and becomes much bigger than it was. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong though.”

Even at a young age, students are allowed to uphold their constitutional rights, so long as they do not cause detriment to other students in the classroom. Bragen stands by this belief as well. 

“You can have adult conversations and discussions. You can have points of view that differ from mine. You can maybe have an idea that is contrary to what I believe about…race, about religion, about economics, about social justice, about communities and borders,” he said. “And I think it’s important for students and teachers to understand that you have a right to have that discourse within the classroom, within the bounds of our curriculum.”